As if to distract us, President Wallace had issued us each our own tablets to keep up with the weekly news in the compound. He thought it would make us feel like part of the community. None of us were new to this sort of technology, but some of us had more experience with them than others. "See, if you just…" Shauna tapped a few times and suddenly the full art database flew open. She handed the tablet back to an eager young girl. "There you go, now you can see exactly where every piece of art in Mount Weather is. That should keep you busy for a while."
As I approached the table, people noticed and moved aside, leaving me a seat. "Looks like you're keeping busy," I noted.
Shauna looked up, embarrassed. "Oh, hi, Maia. I was just showing off." She giggled nervously. I had met Shauna on the Ark when the library needed a few books re-catalogued, she'd been top of her class and her teacher had recommended her for an early job shadowing position.
"So if you can hack into the art database, you can get me some new books right? President Wallace gave me a few novels but I blew right through those."
She laughed again. "Surprisingly enough, they don't have their books scanned into the system like we did on the Ark."
"You mean people here actually use a library?" I asked with mock surprise. "I don't think half the people on the Ark even knew we had a real library."
"More than half."
Jasper grabbed my shoulder, surprising me. "Hey, Maia, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Yeah, sure." I stood up. "See you around, Shauna."
"Bye!" She said happily, before returning to tapping away on her tablet.
"Making friends, how very un-Maia of you."
I rolled my eyes. "I knew her on the Ark."
"Do you remember that huge power outage on the Ark, when the doors malfunctioned and some prisoners escaped? That rich girl that everyone was always talking about was one of them." He paused. "She had some dumb name, like Diamond, or Platinum..." He trailed off.
"Glass?" I prompted.
"Yeah, sure. Anyway, turns out Shauna was behind that."
"Really?" I asked surprised.
"Yeah, that was what she got in for. Don't let her fool you, she's like a super hacker or something."
"Hmm. I'll have to keep that in mind."
Once we were back in the dormitory Jasper got serious. "I've been trying to check on Clarke for days, but no one will let me in to see her. I'm getting worried, what if she's in bad shape."
"Jasper, I am sure Clarke is okay. I haven't been down there recently but I'll see if Dante can tell me something. Hasn't Maya gotten news?"
He shook his head. "Maya is just as clueless as we are. She works in medical, but psychiatric patients are kept in a separate wing."
"Alright, I'll go see Dante now."
Monty just about collided with me as I was heading for the door. "Oh, sorry. Have you seen this?" He pressed his tablet into my hands opened to the bulletin page.
"No, I haven't really used my tablet. Though it appears that I am the only one." I scanned the bulletin. "So they're recruiting new guards, and?" I shrugged.
"An increase in Outsider activity," Monty read. "That doesn't ring any bells?"
"You think they're mobilizing against people on the Ark?"
"Maybe, or at the very least they're prepared to put up a fight if our people come for us."
"I would too," Jasper interjected. "If someone opens the doors without going through the airlock, everyone in here would die."
"Or they just don't want our people to take us away," Monty argued.
Jasper shook his head. "Maia, please find out what's happening with Clarke. Then we can think about what this means."
I nodded. "Okay, on my way." I left the room leaving Monty and Jasper behind me still discussing the situation.
At Dante's office I was let in right away. "Ah, Maia, just the person I was hoping to see." He pointed at the painting he was working on. "Tell me does this flower look right to you?"
I studied it; to my surprise it was the purple flowers I had been so entranced by when we'd first landed. As I searched the picture it became obvious to me that this was my secret spot. "It's nice. Where'd you get the inspiration?"
"We send out scientists to collect samples for us to analyze, this flower was one that was brought back. I created this scene around it." I studied the painting again, there was no way Dante had made this up. They must have taken photographs or described it in precise detail. And who knew when they'd been there, maybe years before our ship had landed, or maybe they were watching us the entire time. I shuddered at the idea of Mountain Men desecrating my safe place.
"Yeah, it's pretty," I said finally.
"I have a feeling artwork is not what you came here to discuss," he said. He motioned to a chair next to his easel. I shook my head. "You want to know about Clarke, is that it?"
"She's my friend."
"It didn't seem like she thought of you that way."
"I let her down."
"Clarke was upset you were standing by your people, that does not sound like a good leader to me."
I shook my head. "Clarke and I don't always see eye to eye, but everything she's ever done has been for our people."
"Even leaving you all here, alone?" I sucked in a deep breath of air. Clarke wasn't in trouble. She escaped. "You seem surprised."
Try relieved, I wanted to say. "No, that sounds like something Clarke would do. Are you sending men after her?"
"I'm sure you've seen the notices, there's been an increase in Outsider activity. We cannot waste our soldiers on a girl that doesn't want to be here. However, we can send one of your own after her. You understand her, you can convince her this is a good place to live."
I had no idea what his angle was here. Why would Dante offer me an out if he knew my suspicions about him? The only reason would be he didn't know. Or maybe he had decided I was a liability, maybe he wanted me out of the way. It was possible he would have me executed as soon as I was outside; he could easily blame my death on the Grounders.
"As you know it's very dangerous outside our mountain. We can provide you with supplies, so you will be as safe as possible," he continued.
"You're asking me to leave my people here."
"Look at them, they're adjusting to life here nicely. It shouldn't take more than a few days to find Clarke and return home. They'll be alright without you for that time." The way he emphasized "a few days" sounded alarm bells in my mind. He wanted Clarke back quickly. He had a decorative musket above his door, if I thought it was loaded I would have grabbed it and pressed him to tell me what his plans were. However I was unarmed and there were guards right outside, I couldn't risk it.
"I'll think about it," I said.
"Please, make a decision soon. It's a dangerous world for Clarke out there."
I pulled Jasper and Monty into the dormitory, making sure we were alone. "What's so important you had to drag me away from my chocolate cake?" Jasper asked.
"You're the one who sent me to Dante," I said annoyed.
"Wait, he actually told you something?"
"Yeah, he told me where Clarke is," I said. "She's gone."
"Gone? Gone how?" Monty asked. "Like dead gone, or gone gone?"
"She left us here," Jasper said.
"Yeah, if I were her, I would have too. She wasn't getting any help from us, of course she was going to take matters into her own hands."
"And you're sure she ran off and she's not in trouble?"
"I don't see why Dante would lie about that. It's his next proposition I was a little more concerned about," I paused. "He wants me to go after her."
Monty grabbed his bag and started packing. "What are you doing?" Jasper asked him.
"I'm going with her, you are too," Monty explained.
"No, Jasper isn't going anywhere, neither am I."
"We aren't going after Clarke, I know what you said…but Dante is offering to let you leave, you wouldn't be sneaking out."
I pointed between Jasper and me. "We're not going. You are."
"Just me," Monty squeaked.
"We already talked about why I can't leave. If I leave, our people will feel abandoned. I can't do that to them. Not to mention I have no way of knowing that they'd be safe. The way Dante said our people would be safe for a few days while I went after Clarke sounded like a threat."
"Like all bets are off if you don't bring Clarke back quick enough?" Monty clarified. I nodded.
"Maia, you're being paranoid," Jasper.
"I'm not being paranoid, I'm being safe. These are not our people, we can't trust them."
"I thought we were keeping this to ourselves," Monty hissed.
I shook my head. "It doesn't matter, this whole room is bugged. They already know."
The sound of the door-opening behind us made us all jump. We turned to see Maya in the doorway. "I just heard. Are you really leaving?" She asked.
"Some of us," Monty mumbled.
"It's too dangerous out there," Maya said to Jasper.
"I'm staying here, I'm a cowered."
I rolled my eyes and started grabbing things for Monty to take with him. I picked up my tablet. When he looked at it confused, I grabbed a piece of Clarke's paper and scrawled a note on it. "Shauna might be able to help us with this." Monty nodded. I tore the note off and tossed it in the fireplace as I walked towards the door.
I pulled the handle but the door didn't budge. That's when I heard the alarm. "Containment breach!" Maya said. I turned to face her and immediately wished I hadn't. Blisters were beginning to spread across her face and down her arms, red and bloody, cracking her skin. Maya ran towards the door. She tried her key card, but the light flashed red. She was trapped in here. I banged on the window but there wasn't anyone in the hall, everyone else was probably still at lunch. She screamed, "Help!"
Maya was taken to medical and Monty and Jasper went with her. I returned to the scene of the crime. A few of the kids that had returned early from lunch and found us banging on the windows, looked visibly shaken. Most of the kids were whispering about Clarke.
I approached Shauna's bed; she glanced up from her tablet. She brushed her braids out of her face. "Oh, Maia!" She quickly pulled her hair up and patted a spot next to her on the bed. "Is it true about Clarke, did she really abandon us?"
"Clarke didn't abandon us. She's just trying to find the rest of our people."
"Are you going after her?" She whispered, as if she knew about the bugs. She pointed up at the mattress. "There's one under every other mattress. Plus the camera at the end of the room. Don't worry, I took out the bugs under both of those beds, as long as we're quiet the other microphones won't pick up our voices."
"Smart," she smiled at the compliment. "What about the cameras? I have something important to ask you but I don't want them to know you're involved."
"Can't see us from here, we're blocked by the other bunks."
"Good." I handed her my tablet. "I know you're good with these. Do they work outside Mount Weather?"
"Hypothetically, yes. I don't know how strong the signal is or how far it will reach, but they should work."
"Could you figure out a way to pass information across these, that the people watching us couldn't see?"
She gave me a skeptical look. "I hacked into the Ark for the first time when I was thirteen. This is elementary level stuff." She rolled over and started tapping away. "Give me a few hours."